Document Type : Original Article


1 Division of Public Health Sciences, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre, Seattle, Washington, USA

2 Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico


CONTEXT: Immersing students studying health promotion and disease prevention into community
settings facing health disparities is an essential supplement to their academic experience. As part
of many public health professions, these students will likely need to understand the values and
beliefs of different cultures so that decisions of appropriate health promotion and treatment can be
made equitably. This paper evaluates an education immersion program that was part of a National
Cancer Institute funded collaboration supporting the recruitment and training of university students in
cancer research. The primary aim of the Health Disparities Field Experience (HDFE) was to facilitate
an experience for students pursuing a health‑related degree to understand the conceptual issues
in border/rural health and the cultural contexts related to health disparities among medically and
financially indigent populations in the region.
SUBJECTS AND METHODS: This study was conducted using qualitative research methods using
a variation of the content analysis approach using open codes to categorize the data. Six students
were selected to participate in the HDFE (five graduate students and one undergraduate) and all six
of the participants completed pre‑ and post‑test surveys.
RESULTS: From the analysis of the data, posttest qualitative responses indicated that three
participants saw racism as a primary cause of cancer‑related disparities, a change from their
pretest responses. When asked about the personal impact of the HDFE, respondents mentioned
the importance of the experiential component.
CONCLUSIONS: Participants learned about health disparities from the HDFE and expressed high
satisfaction with this approach to education.


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